It is in the nature or character of embattled American presidents to fight foreign wars whenever they are beset by issues of legitimacy or internal troubles. To wage a war against a perceived enemy of democratic values, an American president assumes control as commander in chief of that country’s military, political and economic resources. Politically, an American president’s public ratings grow from being lame duck to being sort of a custodian or a police officer, a champion of freedom and fundamental human rights. At some point, these wars often jumpstart an ailing economy, just because of the energy which the deployment of men and materials injects in the system. Some presidents also use wars to divert attention from issues at home, to give them time to consolidate. Such was the case during the Bill Clinton years when his position as president was challenged by the Monica-Lewinsky Affair. From denial after denial of culpability in the affair, and from being relentlessly pursued by a federal prosecutor, Bill Clinton turned his attention to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He accused Iraq of threatening Kuwaiti sovereignty, and from the night he launched operation desert storm, there was a brief respite for him, that is after he appeared to have successfully checked Iraqi aggression in the Persian Gulf.
It was the same scenario during the Bush years. Both the Bushes had a hard time keeping inflation rates low. Figures offered by credible news organisations indicated that the US economy was in some kind of recession. But as soon as the Bushes, working in cahoots with Tony Blair activated the propaganda of the weapons of mass destruction, WMD, Americans easily forgot or were made to forget about their own recession and looked up to their champion who appeared to be standing on a moral ground of justice, human rights and focused on the liberation of Iraq from the monster Saddam Hussein who was alleged to be gassing his own people with chemical weapons. In a recent wringing of hands, Mr Tony Blair, erstwhile British Prime Minister has come out to beg for forgiveness, saying that there was no such thing as WMDs in Iraq.
The above scenarios appear to be no different from Mr Tinubu’s interest in war with Niger. Let’s begin with him: at home here in Nigeria, Mr Tinubu has serious issues with legitimacy. Apart from there being a report by the EU that the election that brought him in as president has procedural and electoral deficiencies, his rivals in the election early in 2023 are in court contesting the outcome of that election. That is why I believe that there are many other issues that I believe Mr Tinubu should be worrying about instead of going to Niger as a conquistador. Many Nigerians, and especially the elite of the elite appear unconcerned about those issues regarding his age, name, educational background and criminal past.
But here we are with Mr Tinubu presiding over a people who for 8 years endured hardship that a lifetime can ever offer. Under Mr Tinubu’s predecessor, life in Nigeria was very hard and almost worthless: Nigeria experienced two recessions, overtook India as poverty capital of the world, and cows appeared to have been much more important than human life, with killings, kidnappings followed by an extremely weak naira.
Today though, nobody would have expected that Mr Tinubu would have applied the Rehoboam’s scorpion whip on Nigerians. But that’s what he has done. The suffering in the land has quadrupled, what with his tactless suspension of the fuel subsidy. That apart, he has launched a program to tax and squeeze Nigerians with tethers and for now nobody can breathe. The economy is slower than he met it, and those willing to either end it through the jappa route or through the Lagoon in Lagos are increasing substantially.
And then, instead of, as we say it in Sapele, for him to siddon for one place and work, Mr Tinubu wants to go to Niger to ‘restore’ democracy. He has taken it upon himself to fight on the side of a colonial power notorious for stealing African resources and impoverishing African people. How very unfortunate. One would have thought that he would be working to apply himself to the economic issues – weak naira, epileptic power supply and putting square pegs in square holes. But no, he is employing some former corrupt governors as ministers and playing American politics of war games, not realizing that even with the wars he fought to shore up his presidency, Bill Clinton was eventually impeached. Even Bush too, 41st president lost the election for a second term to the Democrats in spite of the wars he fought in the Persian Gulf to oust Saddam Hussein. His son too, the 43rd had a shoe thrown at him in Iraq.
At this critical point in our nation’s history, Nigerians need some respite from the sacrifices that leaders have been asking them to make. Even though going to fight a war in Niger may offer him temporary relief from his many issues, it does nothing to lift Nigerians out of the morass they are currently stuck. The wars he must fight are the wars for Nigeria to have steady power supply, a proper health system, functional educational systems and security of our lives and property.
Etemiku is publisher/editor in chief of WADONOR cultural voice of Nigeria.